Meet Pete: Introducing Article One’s Inaugural Technology & Human Rights Lead
February 1, 2023
Blogs Business and Human Rights
By Chloe Poynton
Since its founding, Article One has worked with technology companies around the world to support the responsible development, deployment, and use of their technologies. Whether it is designing leadership level strategies as we did with Microsoft, conducting corporate level HRIAs as we did with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, or conducting country level assessments as we did with Meta, we’ve honed our expertise and helped our clients become leaders in human rights.
To further build our program, we are pleased to welcome Peter Chapman to our team. Peter joins us from Twitter where he was a Senior Legal Counsel with Twitter’s Safety, Content and Law Enforcement team and brings with him nearly two decades of experience on human rights, civic engagement, and technology.
1. Peter, welcome to Article One! What excited you about the ability to partner with technology companies to advance human rights?
Across countries, industries, and societies, technology plays an ever increasing role in our personal, professional, and social lives. New technologies have unlocked—and will continue to enable—enormous potential. But it’s now widely acknowledged that technology is also raising profound new risks, driving new inequalities and compounding injustice. I am excited to work directly with companies that are at the forefront of their fields to chart a rights-advancing and sustainable path forward. There’s much on which to build, and companies cannot navigate these challenges alone. Governments, civil society and broader society all have an important role to play. I am excited about continuing to build meaningful partnerships toward progress.
2. Tell us a little bit about your background. What has led you to this space?
My education and work has focused on issues of human rights and equity. These interests led me to law school and a focus on international law and governance. I’ve had the privilege to work and learn from a diverse set of advocates for social change—from frontline community advocates pursing natural resource accountability to visionary public officials building innovative strategies to put people and communities at the center of public services. In recent years I’ve deepened my focus on the way in which the private sector can expand and reinforce people-centered growth. The technology industry will continue to play an outsized role in helping to shape our collective future and I am eager to work with companies to ensure that this future is rooted in human rights and sustainability.
3. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing companies when it comes to managing human rights risks?
Technologies may have global reach, but it often has impacts that are highly context specific. This poses acute challenges for companies to responsibly understand and manage human rights risks. Take technology supply chains: a supplier operating in two different countries or even communities might present significantly different risks. Digital platforms face similar challenges Benign speech in one context may be incitement in another. Technological innovations harnessed by local and national governments—so called smart cities—can reduce waste, advance sustainability and more effectively deliver public services. But these technologies can also supercharge surveillance and deepen discrimination against marginalized groups. AI can power new insights or systematize existing bias. Data centers are the backbone of the cloud computing that powers many new technologies but often compete with local communities for the use of resources and contributes to GHG emissions.
Technology companies cannot navigate these complexities and trade offs on their own. No person or group can systematically understand the full range of potential impacts with a product or solution. Companies, regulators, civil society and communities all have a role to play in building new governance models to enable greater participation and partnership in the development and deployment of technology.
4. We’re seeing a proliferation of regulation around technology and human rights, what’s your take on the current state and how companies should be preparing?
If feels like we’re still at the divergence phase of technology regulation. Across the political spectrum and across countries, there’s increasing recognition of the need for clear expectations and standards governing technology companies. What specifically should be done is another question. Take social media platforms: there are literally dozens of proposals focused on Section 230 in the United States and important Supreme Court cases this term. Additional regulations focused on transparency, human rights due diligence, AI, forced labor, also proliferate around the world.
From one vantage point, this is a dizzying array of regulation that will stifle technology companies. That’s the wrong view. We’re at a moment where the volume of regulation and regulatory proposals can coalesce to help to further define multistakeholder expectations for companies. Technology companies can and should lean into these expectations and play a productive role in working with civil society, regulators and broader communities to define business practices than can deliver the triple bottom line—benefits for people, the planet and profit.
5. Beyond regulation, what else is on the horizon? How do you think the field will be different in five to ten years?
Over the next years, it’s increasingly likely that businesses will continue to navigate complex political, economic and environmental landscapes. Computing power and technological tools will only increase. As will the energy needs of technologies. With a growing climate crisis and the undermining of democratic practices in multiple regions of the world, will companies lean into human rights and sustainability values and principles or make short-term compromises to maintain a status quo? It is my firm hope that a commitment to advancing human rights and sustainability can help provide a roadmap for technology companies to deliver inclusive and sustainable business practices that place people at the center of business.